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The Gentleman’s Agreement That Could Break Apart Nigeria.

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The Gentleman’s Agreement That Could Break Apart Nigeria.

By Max Siollun.

For the second time in seven years, the political stability of Africa’s most populous nation hinges on the health of one man. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is once again in Britain for medical treatment because of an undisclosed illness. He was there for almost two months earlier this year, and in June 2016 he spent nearly two weeks abroad being treated for an ear infection. In the past month, he missed three straight cabinet meetings due to sickness, and perhaps more tellingly for a devout Muslim, he missed Friday mosque prayers in Abuja, where he usually attends without fail.

Buhari’s unwillingness to disclose the nature or extent of his illness fuels rumors that he is terminally ill or, periodically, that he has already died. Last month, Garba Shehu, a spokesman for the president, was forced to issue a series of tweets denying that anything unpleasant happened to the president. He added that reports of Buhari’s ill health are “plain lies spread by vested interests to create panic.” Buhari’s wife recently tweetedthat his health is “not as bad as it’s being perceived.”

Regardless of the severity of his illness, Buhari’s extended absence risks igniting an ugly power struggle that would threaten not just the political fortunes of his ruling party but also a long observed gentleman’s agreement that has been critical to maintaining the stability of the country.

The unwritten power-sharing agreement obliges the country’s major parties to alternate the presidency between northern and southern officeholders every eight years. It was consolidated during Nigeria’s first two democratic transfers of power — in 1999 and 2007 — and it alleviated the southern secessionist pressures that had festered under decades of military rule by dictators from the north. For a time, this mechanism for alternating power helped keep the peace in a country with hundreds of different ethnic groups and more than 500 different languages. But it was never intended to be permanent, and as Buhari’s illness demonstrates, it has increasingly become a source of tension rather than consensus.

If Buhari, a northerner, doesn’t finish his term of office, and power passes to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, a Christian from the south, it will be the second time in seven years that the north’s “turn” in the presidency has been cut short. In late 2009, then-President Umaru Yar’Adua, who like Buhari was a Muslim from the north, traveled abroad for treatment for an undisclosed illness. When Yar’Adua died in office the following year, his southern Christian vice president, Goodluck Jonathan, succeeded him, setting the stage for an acrimonious split within the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) over whether Jonathan should merely finish out Yar’Adua’s term or run to retain the office in the 2011 election.

In the end, Jonathan ran and won in 2011. But not before 800 people were killed in riots in the north after the PDP allowed Jonathan to contest the election. The anti-Jonathan faction later resigned in protest and defected to the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) party. Buhari led the APC to victory over the PDP in 2015.

An eerily similar scenario is now playing out in Buhari’s APC party. If Buhari dies, resigns, or is declared medically incapacitated by the cabinet, it would likely ignite a similar struggle within the APC over whether Vice President Osinbajo should permanently succeed him as president. A group of prominent northerners has already stated that Osinbajo should serve merely as an interim president and that he cannot replace Buhari on the ticket in the 2019 presidential election. Should Osinbajo succeed Buhari, win the 2019 election, and serve a full term, a Christian southerner will have been president for 18 of the 24 years since Nigeria transitioned to democracy in 1999.

There is a chance that APC leaders will convince — or force — Osinbajo to stand down in favor of another Muslim candidate from the north. But sidelining Osinbajo would pose other sectarian risks. He was chosen as Buhari’s running mate in part to counter southern accusations that the APC is a Muslim party. And although he is seen as a technocrat, Osinbajo is a powerful political force in his own right — too powerful, perhaps, to be sidelined in 2019 without alienating millions of voters. He is a pastor in the country’s largest evangelical church, which has some 6 million members, and his wife is the granddaughter of Obafemi Awolowo, one of Nigeria’s early independence politicians who is beloved in southwest Nigeria.

Yet if the north’s “turn” in power is interrupted again, it will further alienate the region — already home to the bloody Boko Haram insurgency, which has thrived in part because of government neglect — and make north-south cooperation on security, development, and a host of other critical issues more difficult. It could easily lead to another round of deadly riots, as it did in 2011. But there is a way out.

Nigeria should abandon the convention of north-south presidential power rotation now that it has outlived its purpose. At the same time, it should deepen power sharing in state and local governments, which have steadily gained influence relative to the national government since 1999. Many of the country’s 36 states and 774 local governments already practice some form of power rotation among politicians from different ethnic, religious, and geographic groups. The key will be to frame the abolition of power rotation at the presidential level as an opportunity to strengthen these norms at the state and local levels — not a chance to terminate them everywhere at once.

The reality is that most Nigerians experience government at the local level anyway. Regardless of whether Buhari or Osinbajo is in the presidential palace, state and local officials have the most purchase on the lives of ordinary citizens. Letting go of a dangerous convention at the national level while devolving more power to inclusive governance structures at the local level offers a way out of the current impasse.

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Opinion

Sule Lamido and the International Day for PLWD

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Sule Lamido and the International Day for PLWD

By: Adamu Muhd Usman

December 3rd, was set aside every year as International Day of People Living With Disabilities (PLWD). The annual observance of the International Day for PLWD was proclaimed in 1992, by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 47/3. The observance of the Day aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities.

It also seeks to increase awareness of gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.

Wow!!! Sule Lamido is a blessed person, he is also an institution because of his wisdom, passion and uprightness to putting everything in place for the PLWDs in his state when he was the governor of Jigawa state. While this is a package for a country or nation to adopt, but a state governor implemented it and was successful because it yielded fruitful results. Sule Lamido a man of wisdom.

Lamido’s attitude of showing appreciation, concern, encouragement, emparthy and care for the physically challenged persons has been part and parcel of him because when he (Lamido) was the governor of Jigawa state he initiated a special package whereby 100 physically challenged persons were selected from each of the 27 Local government areas in the state and were given monthly security allowance (stipend) which improve their standards of living and also the scheme reduced unemployment and halted begging on the streets across the state.

Because of the importance of the PLWDs Lamido gave them the opportunity to aspire and contest for elective positions in the state. There was even a time when a state assembly seat (Dutse constituency) was won by a cripple during his administration.

During his tenure, Lamido appointed as Special Assistants (S.A) Physically challenged persons to give them sense of belonging in the state .

There were also laws enacted during his administration that mandated free medical care and free education from primary school to all levels of education (university) for the People Living With Disability in the state.
The PLWD were entitled to all opportunities given to any state indigene. They were even given priority or special attention in so many respects than the normal persons.

Thank you Lamido. May God Almighty reward you abundantly. I wish you well, I wish you all the best. A true democrat, a reliable politician, nation-political-bridge-bulider and a liberal, dedicated and committed leader per excellence.

Adamu writes from Kafin-Hausa Jigawa state.

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RAMP and Nigeria rural roads

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RAMP and Nigeria rural roads

By Ahmed Mohammed

The Rural Access and Mobility Project (RAMP 2) is a six-year World Bank project focused on the rehabilitation of rural roads and associated capacity building of institutions mandated to provide and maintain rural transport infrastructure. The project commenced in February 2014 and operates in six states: Adamawa, Enugu, Niger, Osun, Imo and Cross-River.

The objectives of the project include increasing the share of the population with access to an all-season road, increasing the share of the total classified roads in good and fair condition and increasing the number of roads receiving adequate levels of maintenance. There is no doubt that the programme has greatly assisted in transforming the rural settings, creating access and expanding frontiers in areas hitherto inaccessible.

In Niger State which has the highest landmass in Nigeria and equally higher number of hard to reach communities, the programme has become the fulkrum that drives the state government’s rural transformation policies aimed at creating economic and social equality among the urban, semi-urban and their most rural counterparts.

The past two phases of the tripartite programme focused on rehabilitation of rural roads , community based road maintenance and annual mechanized maintenance and project management and strengthening of state and federal road sector institutional , policy, and regulatory framework.

Through the RAMP activities coordinated by Hassan Etsu 391 communities across the state have benefited. The efforts show that 519kilometers of roads have been constructed with about 230 km targeted for surface dressing on going.

The breakdown shows that 117 kilometers were constructed in the first phase, while 402 kilometers including 30 river crossing bridges were put in place in the ongoing effort to improve movement of people and goods within and outside the rural communities especially in the hard to reach areas.

Some of the roads to include Wuya Suma – Lemu , Mokwa – Jaagi, -Kudu, Sabon Wuse-Ijah Gbagyi, Sullu –Tafa, Suleja-Abuchi-IzomAuna –Tungajika-Shafini, Wawa-Malali, in the first phase with the projects were completed and handed over to the state project implementation unit.

Key bridges such as Maza Kuka, Adogon Mallam, Ibeto-Gyengi, Gganran sagi, Ragadawa-Baban dogo, Kutriko-Salawu Cikan, Mukugi- Ajitupa, Eyangi-Liman , Wuya- Kanti, Emi egimazi, Dabban, Sabon Daga, NAkpankuchi river, Maikera- Beji Labude among others were constructed.

According to the coordinating office a total of N9 billion have been spent cumulatively within the first and second phases of the programme. This is aside the N6 billion approved by the state government for surface dressing of 230 kilometres of the rural roads earlier constructed under RAMP .

At the flag off of the surface dressing of the Izom-Abuchi-Suleja road recently, he Governor Abubakar Sani Bello, who was represented by Commissioner of Agriculture Hon Zakeri Jikantoro at the event, spoke on the reasons why the state government has to go out of its way to release extra funds to aid the programme, saying the move was to ensure that the quality of the rural roads were upgraded to withstand the volume of traffic.

According to the governor, the traffic on the roads become unprecedented beyond what the earthen roads can withstand, necessitating urgent steps to upgrade the roads. ” This has prompted the state government to engage surface dressing of these roads to increase their durability in serving the people. We have to do this to ensure that the huge investment in constructing the earthen roads does not go down the drains,” he had opined.

This intervention was in addition to 169km of rural roads that were also rehabilitated under the Spot Improvement and Annual Mechanized Maintenance Intervention of the World Bank (WB) and French Development Agency (AFD) co-financed initiative to improve transportation in the Rural areas.

It must be noted that six roads earmarked for surface dressing have the potential for high volume of traffic and are spread across the three-geo-political zones of the state.

The affected roads were Suleja – Abuchi- Izom road , Wuya Suman – Lemu road, Old Gawu – Farindoki road, Kampanin Bobi- Bangi road, Kutigi- Tashan Hajiya road and Wuya Kanti – EtsuTasha road

These efforts are estimated to cost the state government the sum N6,067,554,358.34 and the cumulative result of the government’s back up initiative is that the implementation of Rural Access Mobility Projects II (RAMP2) programmes has reduced rural mortality by 60 percent.

Jikantoro himself confirmed the feat at forum, stating that the mortality rate has been reduced by 60 percent in intervention areas because many communities can now access secondary and tertiary health facilities due to availability of roads constructed by RAMP 2.

According to him , the benefits of the programme included the construction and rehabilitation of 176km roads in the first phase and 403 km roads in the second phase of the project, adding that the programme has greatly assisted in the economic empowerment of the rural dwellers by enhancing movement of farm produce to markets.

It is really gratifying that governor Bello has continued to meet the state’s counterpart obligations through realy releases of funds for the project and also assured of the state government’s commitment towards punctual release of the same as the project enters the third phase.

The National Coordinator of RAMP, Engineer Ubandoma Ularamu had always commended the state for taking the best position in the successful implementation of RAMP projects in the country, acknowledging that there has been unprecedented growth in agriculture in the state. I therefore urge the state government to continue to support the programme to enable more communities to benefit from it.

It is because of this feat that he assures that the state will be enlisted to again participate in the New RAMP that will commence soon.

Overall, the project has so far constructed over 600km rural roads and has empowered the local capacities through the community based rural roads maintenance model which entails the engagement of the rural people along the corridors of rural roads rehabilitated by the project thereby creating employment opportunities in the state.

The project also intends to institutionalize rural roads maintenance activities, management and funding as part of its deliverables and making it last beyond the implementation period of 2020 .

With Participating States of Niger, Osun, Enugu, Adamawa and Imo states and Donor fund: USD60million(IDA:45M, AFD:15M Niger state has indeed trail the blaze to open the rural areas.

The Special Adviser political and strategy Alhaji Mohammed Nma Kolo whose office has been monitoring the progress in the implementation of the project noted that the success story has indeed changed the political dynamics in the Rural areas.

To him, the success has further increased the confidence of the people in the government and the desire of the government to change their lives for better.

Mohammed is of the office of Special Adviser Political to Niger State Governor.

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Opinion

TRUMP WASN’T BAD AFTER ALL

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TRUMP WASN’T BAD AFTER ALL
By Frank Tietie
Preceding the American Presidential elections, in October, 2020, I was invited to join a Zoom Meeting hosted by Nigerian-Americans who had the right to vote in the US elections.

Listening to both sides of the argument between the supporters of incumbent President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, I became persuaded that Trump would be better for the USA as a second term President. He probably earned it.

I got to know how much Trump revived the American economy and subsequently created an unprecedented number of jobs for people of African descent in pre-COVID times.

In that Zoom Meeting, Trump was said to have stood up against bare faced official hypocrisy and corruption in Washington. Also, he ensured funding for Black colleges and did many more revolutionary yet, positive things for the Black American community.

I was impressed with reasons given why Black celebrities like Ice Cube, Lil Wayne, 50 Cents, Kanye West and many others support Trump. They do acknowledge that he talks ‘trash’ but they claim that he is sincere, makes things happen and does exactly what he promises. Ice Cube said that Trump represents the American spirit of freedom and success.

Later that week, I was privileged to be interviewed by a correspondent of the Voice of America (VOA) on why Nigerians took interest in the US Presidential elections. I was not allowed to mention a preferred candidate. So I told the VOA that Nigerians somehow believe that the USA is a very powerful country and that whoever became its president would determine interests in such matters as Nigerian immigration to the USA and regional security in Africa.

Also, I got to know that Joe Biden, in his 47 year career in government has done more harm to the Black people in America by enacting a law that has put a large number of black men in prison compares to any other people of different racial backgrounds.

Many Nigerians hated the Trump presidency because of its tough stance on preventing immigration to the US, from certain countries in the Middle East and Africa. But you can’t take it from Trump that he minded American interests and didn’t care what the world thought about him. He said after all, that “America First!”. Who can really say: Nigeria First?

Really, how can a Nigerian hate Trump for building a wall to prevent illegal migration when South Africa whose liberation from Aparthied, that was literally paid for by Nigeria, yet it chose as a people to systematically chase away Nigerian immigrants from South Africa? That country has exhibited the worst yet, most undeserving form of xenophobia against Nigerians. We shall never forget so quickly.

How can Nigerians blame Trump for building a wall? Everyday, many Nigerians, especially from Southern Nigeria cry on both the social media and traditional media that the government of President Buhari is allowing Fulanis from all over Africa to easily move into Nigeria in order to cause mayhem, carry out land grabs and change the demographics of native Nigerian communities with the plan to dominate and take over Nigeria. What then do you have against a president who wants to define the citizenship of his country by preventing illegal migration?

On LGBT. I don’t have anything against gay, lesbians, bi-sexuals and transgender (LGBT) persons. So I don’t have any apologies for defending their rights whether in court or in public because they are human. But I sincerely believe that there is something is wrong with them!

Firstly, humbly, as a liberal-conservative, with values that are shaped by African trado-cultural beliefs and Judeo-Christian indoctrination, I will never promote LGBT lifestyles. Also, I do not support abortion and same sex marriage. Very many Nigerians share this same position with me yet they support Joe Biden and Kamala Harris who are staunch promoters of LGBT culture.

Both Biden and Harris have officially conducted same sex marriages in America. The Catholic church once rebuked Biden for his support for same sex marriages. How would Nigerians want those kind of leaders over themselves?

The Democrat led US government of Barrack Obama and Joe Biden scolded Nigeria for enacting the Same Sex Prohibition Act. They so hated former Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan and refused to sell arms to him, to fight boko haram. They mobilized resources against Jonathan’s re-election and sent John Kerry to execute their plan. It is not that they love Buhari, they just hated Jonathan. They didn’t know that their hate for Jonathan was akin to hate for Nigeria. These were the same people who had always wished that Nigeria gets into a political conflict. They even went ahead to predict that Nigeria would break up in 2015. Frankly, I don’t like US democrats!

Alas! Trump became US president and invited Buhari to the United States and unconditionally agreed to sell arms to Nigeria, to fight boko haram. Against political correctness, he inquired of the Nigerian President why he was allowing the killing and persecution of Christians in his country. Yet someone wonders why some Nigerian Christians hold street processions for Trump in Nigeria?

Many Nigerians do not understand the issues in US politics and like I told the VOA correspondent, many Nigerians take interest in American politics, particularly with regards to who becomes the US president, wishing their own country could have such powerful and influential persons running things in Nigeria at the highest level of governance.

Really, who would Nigerians prefer to be President of Nigeria? A Trump or a Biden?

Frank Tietie,
Human Rights Lawyer
writes from Abuja

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